I have written to my MSPs. It’s based on an open letter that’s gone to the Scottish press, the First Minister, and the Minister of Transport,* signed by me and over 80 others:
I am writing to you about the government funded Nice Way Code campaign which I feel risks worsening the safety of cyclists on the road. At the launch of the Nice Way Code, Transport Minister Keith Brown said, “The Nice Way Code campaign seeks to build a culture of tolerance and patience between cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and all other road users across Scotland.” However, everything that has come out of this campaign – which was paid for out of the active travel budget – seems likely instead to create conflict, reinforcing divisions between people based merely on their mode of transport. One advert encourages cyclists not to run red lights simply in order not to give other cyclists a bad name (and not because it’s dangerous and discourteous, not least to pedestrians) – lumping all cyclists together and implying bad behaviour by a tiny minority justifies hostility to everyone who chooses to ride a bike.
As a cyclist I am are used to hearing from a few uninformed drivers that ‘all’ cyclists run red lights, ride on the pavement, hold up traffic and generally deserve to be treated like obstacles on the road. But I never expected my own government to run adverts saying the same thing. As nine cyclists have died on Scotland’s roads already this year, it’s unsurprising that this campaign seems to have angered almost everyone who regularly rides a bike.
Safer roads will not come from lecturing people and pandering to stereotypes. I believe they will come from rethinking our current emphasis on designing roads purely for motor traffic and redesigning them to remove the sort of conflicts these adverts reflect. Pending that, it’s clear that many people who don’t ride bikes themselves are unaware of the needs of cyclists on the road. A campaign that really aimed to build a culture of patience and tolerance could have helped to educate them about these things, and to get cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to see things from each others’ point of view. Calling cyclists names is not it.
I urge you to tell the government that it has made a mistake and to pull this campaign before it ramps up tensions on the road even further. I suggest that it takes this opportunity to start a real dialogue between road users about how we can recognise that we are all people, and behave accordingly.
For those of you who feel the same way, I urge you to do the same. And tomorrow, we will be back to baking, gardening, hello clouds, hello trees and general fluffiness because I feel I’ve spent more time and spilled more ink on this matter than it really deserves.
* I got an out of office reply